Sunday, May 15, 2011

Thom Pham's Wondrous Azian Kitchen

Visited on Friday, May 6th

Outside Wondrous Kitchen

Ben's Review
I “surprised” Erin last Friday by meeting her at her office and taking her out to lunch. (She found out about it that morning, which wasn’t a huge deal). I knew she had been wanting to get sushi, so I planned on trying the new-ish Wondrous Azian Kitchen on Hennepin.

Not knowing anything about the place, I made reservations. Not necessary at all for lunch. The restaurant is large and nearly empty at noon. We were seated in the bar area that has full length windows facing Hennepin. They also have a separate dining room so they can hold a significant number of people if need be.

Inside Wondrous Kitchen

It was nice out that day (a rarity this spring) so the windows by our table were partially open, which I liked. We were quickly asked for drink orders and if we had any questions about the menu. I assumed we’d be getting some sushi to split but Erin decided to get a bento box for herself, leaving me with a wide array of options from the menu.

Inside Wondrous Kitchen

I like sushi just fine, but I love me some Pad Thai, which they of course had on the menu. I asked about heat levels and was told that the Pad Thai comes with a three out of five spice by default, which was fine with me.

The wait for our food seemed long, but maybe sushi takes longer? Anyways, our food looked great and the lunch portion of my Pad Thai was easily enough for a second meal, which makes the $10 price tag even that much better. I recall the heat level not really being what I would call a three. To me, I should be able to taste the heat at three, but this was pretty weak. Not sure what they would do for a two or one. They do have sriracha at all the tables, which is nice. (I nearly stole ours because it was the big bottle and unopened.)


Egg Drop soup
(Editor's note: It seems Ben forgot he had soup)

Aside from the spice not being where I anticipated the Pad Thai was very good. I always marvel at how Asian restaurants can get the noodles done so well, I can never replicate that at home. The chicken, sauce, and noodles were great, but as I look at the picture now, it appears that it didn’t have basil, which I thought was a Pad Thai standard ingredient.

Pad Thai

Wondrous Azian Kitchen was great for a lunch date, and not too expensive when you factor in the leftovers. The bar is huge and well stocked, it would be a fun place to bring a larger group of people downtown (if we ever did that anymore, haha............sigh).

Service: Good service, exactly what was expected.
Food: Great Pad Thai, though not as spicy as I was expecting
Drinks: Being lunch on a workday I didn’t have a cocktail, but they do have a huge bar that has everything you could want.
Ambiance: Hard to tell because it was so empty, but I can see this place cranking the music at night and opening the windows to the Hennepin Ave crowd.
Convenience: Not terribly convenient for parking, but plenty of bus and bike options.

Erin's Review
The Friday before Mother's Day, one of my co-worker's was sick. She had a presentation at noon that I offered to take for her, but my other coworker Jen told me I couldn't. I also wasn't allowed to ask why, and couldn't make any other plans after 11:30am. Reallll stealth, Jen! Ben has surprised me at work before, so as soon as this turn of events happened, I pretty much knew what was up, just wasn't sure of the details. He showed up at 11:30, and told me we were heading out for lunch - pretty sweet guy! After I got over my initial disappointment of him not having Annie with him, as he had the last time he surprised me, I enjoyed our surprise lunchtime date.

It was a beautiful day outside, so Ben offered me the opportunity to switch up the location to a place that had a patio. I'm glad I chose to stick with Wondrous Kitchen as they had their large windows open to Hennepin Avenue, which made it feel almost patio like. We both really enjoyed Azia when we went to a blogger event there, so I figured Wondrous Kitchen would be pretty similar.

After perusing the menu, I decided not to get sushi for Ben and I to split because of the pretty high cost of the rolls I wanted to order. I was glad to see a Maki Bento option on the lunch menu because I really wanted rolls, and most sushi lunch specials feature nigiri (plain fish and rice). I ordered that, as well as my new favorite beverage of cranberry juice and sprite.

Cranberry Juice/sprite

Our soups came out pretty quickly - I had gotten the miso soup, and it was FULL of seaweed and tofu, unlike most places which have a few lone tofu cubes and not much seaweed at all. It was a bit much for my tastes, I almost prefer the more sparse miso soups that I've had elsewhere, but was still certainly tasty.

Miso Soup

When our main dishes arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by how much sushi there was. It was almost too much for me, which rarely happens with sushi! I was a little disappointed with the presentation - when I see the word "bento" in the description, I do expect something a bit more elaborate. Oh well, I got over it. I love sushi, quite a bit, and typically order rolls like caterpillar, dynamite and other specialty rolls. I think one common characteristic of those rolls is some type of delicious sauce, cream cheese or spicy mayo - these rolls were pretty bland in comparison. I did really like the spicy tuna but the other two were a little blah. I was able to jazz them up with some wasabi, but it was a poor substitute for the type of sushi I typically enjoy. This was my own fault - I knew what I was getting, and just didn't want to pay that much for the more involved rolls. Again - oh well.

Maki Bento Lunch

The ambiance at Wondrous Kitchen was a little blah over lunch, just because it was practically empty (as are most places outside the "skyway belt") but I can see it being hopping and really fun late at night. Anyone been here at night that can comment? The decor was minimalist but had some nice touches. I really liked the bar with the huge windows facing Hennepin - it would definitely make for some good people watching.

Inside Wondrous Kitchen

I hope Wondrous Kitchen can make it in this location that does seem to be a bit cursed. The choice of a long and kind of confusing name probably wasn't a good one, but hopefully it won't hurt them. "Thom Pham's Wondrous Azian Kitchen" just doesn't roll off the tongue very easily, and I'm pretty sure if you were going to pick a place randomly to text a friend to meet you at, you'd pick one with a lot fewer letters. Maybe that's just me speaking as a lazy texter, who knows. Anyway, we both liked it and I'd be interested to come back and see what it's like when downtown is hopping.

Outside Wondrous Kitchen

Thom Pham's Wondrous Azian Kitchen
533 Hennepin Ave S